Orange County relaunched its Longtime Homeowner Assistance program this month to help aid area homeowners struggling with property tax bills.
The initiative began as a pilot program last October in response to the 2021tax revaluation, which caused property tax to rise in certain areas. The pilot program ended with 91 successful applications and $16,364 granted in relief.
For this year’s program, the county has received 115 applications within the last month, according to Alexus Battle, administrative assistant for Orange County’s Housing & Community Development department.
To boost participation, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners approved several updates to the original program.
LHA will almost double the application time allowed in last year’s pilot and will accept applications until Dec. 1.
Applications can be completed online or through a paper application, and staff are available to help through the application process by calling or emailing the Orange County Housing Helpline at (919) 245-2655 and HousingHelp@orangecountync.gov.
Paper applications can be dropped off at either of the Orange County Housing offices at 300 W. Tryon St. in Hillsborough or 2501 Homestead Rd. in Chapel Hil.
“Once a person has applied, we will let them know two to three weeks after their application date if they are eligible for the assistance,” Battle said.
While the pilot program only accepted applicants whose property tax had risen, the new program is eligible to anyone under certain income levels who have lived in their homes for more than five years. Previously, applicants had to live in their homes for at least 10 years to be eligible.
According to an Aug. 2 press release, Orange County residents who earn at or below 80 percent of the area median income can apply for the program. A family of three would be eligible for the program if their total income is below $68,800. For a family of four, the income bar is $76,400 – $7,300 more than the pilot program required for a family of the same size.
The BOCC approved a total of $250,000 to fund this year’s program. The Housing & Community Development department will prioritize applicants based on age, the number of years applicants have lived in their houses and those whose property tax makes up a high percentage of their annual income.
Tany Pacchioni, a sophomore at UNC, said he thinks the program is important and helpful, but he is expecting more from the government.
“I mean, of course, anything that has to do with financial assistance is very important, especially with like, the way that the economy is going right now and has been going for like four months now,” he said.
The program mainly benefits those who have lived in their home for a long period of time and have a limited income, said Orange County Tax Administrator Nancy Freeman.
“Their value continues to increase because the homes in their immediate neighborhood – the value is increasing there,” Freeman said.
She added that property taxes increasing in certain areas is a systemic issue that the law does not address, and the same problem is occurring throughout the state.
“As property values and tax rates continue to go up, this will continue to be an issue,” Freeman said. “And not just in Orange County, but in all counties around the state that are experiencing the same kind of growth that we are. And basically, the entire state is seeing the kind of growth that we’re seeing with the sale prices of the property going up so drastically.”
Although North Carolina reappraises its property on an eight-year basis, Orange County reevaluates its properties more frequently — every four years.
“Values do change quite a bit within an eight-year period,” Freeman said. “And doing the four-year cycle allows you to update to current information and for there not to be such a great gap and such a great amount of change that you would get within an eight-year cycle.”
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